aul Volcker’s eight-year chairmanship of the Federal Reserve Board was the central episode of his professional career, and is universally recognized as one of the great public service performances of recent history. If there were a Nobel Prize for government service, Volcker’s would be one of the names on the short list.1
Volcker has spent almost his entire professional life dealing with financial crises—bank failures, currency collapses, global imbalances, economic crashes. In persona and presence, he is central casting’s notion of the global banker—tall (six foot seven), imposing, gruff, but unfailingly courteous, and with a fine sense of humor in private. The crises that defined his career can almost all be understood as part of ...